How to Send a Message in Plain Text from Gmail

Strip the fancy formatting to improve the compatibility of your messages

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In Gmail, you can easily send messages either using rich HTML formatting or just plain text. Plain-text formats strip formatting like colors and images.

Follow the instructions in your email program to send plain-text messages through Gmail. The instructions that follow only apply to Gmail in a web browser.

How to Send a Message in Plain Text from Gmail

Gmail compose screen

To send an email in plain text in Gmail, compose a message as you normally would. At the bottom of the compose window, click the three-dot menu then click Plain text mode.

This setting acts as a toggle; to de-activate plain-text mode, re-select the menu option.

Why Plain Text Emails Matter

Plain-text messaging is technically the default method by which emails are transmitted. However, if you use special formats like HTML or RTF, the email — behind the scenes — looks like gibberish; the raw formatting code is what actually transmits over the internet. The recipient's email program reads the encoded instructions to reconstruct then present the email as you intended.

In most cases, this reconstruction process isn't a big deal. However, most email programs allow users to disable HTML rendering of messages as a safety precaution. Because spam messages, viruses, and other modes of malware can execute when an email program reads and then executes code, programs (like Microsoft Outlook) tend to suppress HTML loading by default.

So if your message depends on HTML, a large chunk of your audience may not see it, especially if they haven't added your email address as a trusted or whitelisted correspondent.